Nation & World

Hurricane Irene batters the Bahamas

2 P.M.: Hurricane Irene continued to intensify, reaching 120 mph as the eye crossed Acklins and Crooked Islands in the southeastern Bahamas.

The National Hurricane Center said Irene was large and dangerous storm likely to further strengthen over the next day, potentially to a Category 4 hurricane. Forecasters said the hurricane also was moving northwest, a sign it was beginning the turn expected to keep its worst winds well off the coast of Florida. Much of the Atlantic Coast, from North Carolina to New England, remained in the danger zone for a potential landfall later in the week.

As Irene battered islands at the southern end of the chain, Bahamians in Nassau stressed that they had confidence in that the nation’s strict building codes would limit losses.

"We're used to hurricanes," said Felton Rolle, who owns the Salina Point resort in Acklins, where Irene's eye crossed around noon. "We usually fare pretty well. I think the damages are not going to be major, We'll lose shingles, so the biggest problem will be clean up. It's a rural area, so there are going to be a lot of trees to clean up."

Rolle said he called Acklins at 6 A.M. from Nassau and learned the power was had already been out for an hour and that winds were very strong. By early afternoon, he could not get any calls through.

"I prefer to ride a storm in Acklins. You don't run away,’’ he said. “You prepare."

1:30 P.M.: Harvey Roberts, the administrator of Mayaguana Island in the Bahamas, said fierce winds began were continuing Wednesday morning as the eye of powerful Hurricane Irene roared just offshore.

"It got really bad this morning at 10," he told The Miami Herald. "Things are pretty rough. The top of a neighbor’s roof is in my yard. A lot of trees are down. The wind is blowing really, really hard."

He said the police inspector surveyed the island, home to some 300 people, and found a church with its side blown off in Abraham Bay and a utility pole on fire because a tree fell on it. Only 15 people left their homes for government shelters.

Roberts said the island was without power. By late morning Wednesday, the rains had appeared to cease, but the winds were still strong.

"I believe that after 18 hours already, this is the tail end for us," he sad. "It really has not let up yet. It’s quite a big hurricane, isn’t it?"

After blowing over Mayaguana, the storm was expected to head right through the channel, hitting smaller islands surrounded by shallow water prone to flooding, said National Emergency Management Agency Director Capt. Stephen Russell.

"The winds drag this water and throw it right on land," Russell said, pointing to a map of the islands in his Nassau office. He pointed to 365 private keys near Exumas (check spelling) which he said were at particular risk. "It’s too early to tell what the damage is: we’re not asking anyone to venture outside and check. I fear a Category 3 storm can do a lot of damage. We have shallow waters that can surge and cause serious flooding."

Nassau and other major cities should be brushed by the outer edges of the storm on Thursday.

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